Step into El Cajon’s super cool Arts Alley!

At first glance the place might seem unremarkable. Just another alley in downtown El Cajon–north of Main Street, between Magnolia Avenue and Sulzfeld Way. And just south of the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center, which is located on Rea Avenue.

But should you step into El Cajon’s surprising Arts Alley, you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by delightful murals and fantastic works of imagination! The alley is so full of creativity, some of the super cool artwork has overflowed right out of it at the east end!

And what is an alley without cats?

You’ll also find a few wise quotes written on walls concerning the nature of beauty.

(You might notice in my photos that Arts Alley is located behind a couple of art galleries–plus a variety of other El Cajon shops and eateries that line a historic segment of Main Street.)

To be accurate, those two large Olaf Wieghorst Museum murals I posted aren’t in Arts Alley, but both can be seen from it! (I believe there’s another Western-themed mural that I failed to photograph. Oops.)

In case you’re curious, Olaf Wieghorst was a popular painter of the American West, whose work once appeared all over, including Zane Grey’s Western Magazine and the open titles sequence of the John Wayne movie El Dorado. He lived in El Cajon, where the museum is located, the second half of his life.

One day I hope to swing by the museum when it’s open and blog about the experience!

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Prints by Rufino Tamayo at America Plaza.

It seems few people realize the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has a small “gallery” inside One America Plaza, the tall building that stands across Kettner Boulevard from the museum’s downtown location. Works of art are often displayed behind several windows in a passage connected to the office building’s lobby.

The artwork now on display is titled Sun: Prints by Rufino Tamayo from MCASD’s Collection.

According to a sign in one window: “Rufino Tamayo was a prolific artist working in many media, from oil painting and watercolor to printmaking and even sculpture. Tamayo was also a prominent muralist, and completed projects for museums, universities, and libraries throughout the world. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Tamayo emerged as one of the leading artists in his country and is recognized internationally as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.”

This morning I enjoyed a look at the eleven pieces that are on display. To me they all possess a primitive, even elemental quality that seems mysteriously symbolic. These are representations of life that are both strange and intimately understood. They are visions that you might see in your dreams.

If you happen to be in downtown San Diego, or simply love the art of Rufino Tamayo, head into the main entrance of One America Plaza, then turn left to find this small treasure trove of fantastic art!

For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not; night itself for Tamayo is simply the sun carbonized. --Octavio Paz
For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not; night itself for Tamayo is simply the sun carbonized. –Octavio Paz

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

More street art at Fenton Marketplace!

I was pulling into the parking lot at Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley when I spied two large electrical boxes painted by local artist Brise Birdsong!

In the past I’ve photographed other examples of Brise’s fun street art. You can recognize her work on a couple of boxes along nearby Fenton Parkway. See those here!

About a year ago I briefly met the artist in City Heights. She helped to mentor new muralist Mimi Gonzalez Martinez. Read about that here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Making beautiful candles in Old Town.

Today I watched as a father and his son made beautiful candles in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The father, Paul, is the owner of Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop. His son is a super friendly young man named KC.

This talented family has been making candles by hand for three generations. I learned their business has been operating for about 38 years (including a period at Knott’s Berry Farm) and has been located in Old Town now for about 24 years.

For a few minutes I watched as Paul used a special carving tool to cut and curl back soft wax as he made an elaborate, very beautiful, multicolored candle. He told me he had about 8 minutes to complete the task, before the wax cooled and hardened. After carving a well at the top of the candle, he dipped his finished creation in clear wax, then a hard glaze.

Sometimes he’ll add shells or figurines to these decorative candles, to make them even more fantastic. I also learned that these fancy many-layered candles, which begin modestly as a solid mold, can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to create!

Outside the shop, tourists and curious passersby were watching KC dip taper candles. He’d dip each group of wicks, which are suspended vertically in a circle, about 30 to 35 times, depending on the outdoor temperature. He was careful not to leave the forming candles in the hot wax for too long. After the candles grew in girth to the correct size, he removed the excess wax for future use, and used scissors to cut the candles free, as you can see in my last photo!

Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop is located in the historically and architecturally important Sessions Building, which was designed by renowned San Diego architect Richard Requa. Learn more about it here!

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Colorful mural in Hillcrest at Urban MO’s!

I spotted a new mural in Hillcrest at the corner of University and Third Avenue! A rainbow heart and glamorous face decorate one wall of Urban MO’s Bar and Grill.

The artwork, adding even more color to the dynamic LGBT community in Hillcrest, was spray painted by cool local artist Alex Julian.

Check it out!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Even more cool street art in City Heights!

I recently walked down University Avenue, from I-805 to Fairmount Avenue, then back again on the opposite sidewalk.

I found more cool street art in this stretch of City Heights, including a fantastic mural painted by Hugo Fernando Fierro!

Cool mural by @hoyote in City Heights.
Cool mural by Hugo Fernando Fierro (@hoyote) in City Heights.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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The art of Lomaland at San Diego History Center.

The Bard, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. One of the Theosophical Society artist's allegorical works.
The Bard, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. One of the Theosophical Society artist’s allegorical works concerning spirituality.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know very much about Lomaland. I knew it was a Theosophical community in Point Loma with several exotic buildings that were located where Point Loma Nazarene University stands today, but that’s about all.

After viewing the San Diego History Center’s current exhibition The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland, and doing a little online research, I now know more about this unique utopian community that made important cultural contributions to San Diego in the first half of the 20th century.

Lomaland was established by Katherine Tingley in 1897. The home of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, the community became a haven for learning, culture and social reform. Artists and like-minded individuals from around the world came to Lomaland to lead spiritual, contemplative, idealistic lives.

According to the San Diego History Center website: “Tingley’s progressive Theosophical vision, which placed strong emphasis on cultural pursuits including music, dance, drama, literature and visual art, attracted artists from the United States and abroad. As the community developed, many artists came to live and work at Lomaland, including Marguerite Lemke Barton, Grace “Gay” Betts, Maurice Braun, Benjamin Gordon, Leonard Lester, Marian Plummer Lester, Reginald Willoughby Machell, and Edith White.”

I learned from Wikipedia: “Led by Katherine Tingley, the group came to Point Loma to establish a community that would model the philosophical and humanitarian goals of Theosophy. The “White City” envisioned by Tingley was to be located on the extreme western edge of the North American continent but oriented toward India, the spiritual center of Theosophical beliefs. The blend of new world confidence, Victorian morality, a love of antiquity, and Indian spirituality created a unique community …”

The buildings of Lomaland were completed in 1900, and the Theosophical community flourished in Point Loma until 1942, when it relocated to Covina. The main building and Temple of Peace, which often appear in Theosophical Society artwork, had domes of aquamarine and amethyst colored glass. They could be seen far out to sea, and as far east as Mt. Cuyamaca. They were destroyed by fire in 1952. The Spaulding house today serves as the administration building at Point Loma Nazarene University.

I took a few photos of the exhibition in subdued lighting, but my poor old camera doesn’t capture the full detail and beauty of this artwork.

Many more paintings, historical photographs and other works of unique art in The Path of the Mystic: Art & Theosophy at Lomaland will be on display through April 19, 2020 at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.

Katherine Tingley, founder of Lomaland, in her office.
Katherine Tingley, founder of Lomaland, in her office.
Roman Gate, entrance to Lomaland in Point Loma.
Roman Gate, entrance to Lomaland in Point Loma.
Marian Plummer Lester, Untitled drawing, c. 1908. Ink on paper. Small drawing of the Temple of Peace and Raja-Yoga Academy buildings at Lomaland when the artist was fifteen years old.
Marian Plummer Lester, Untitled, c. 1908. Ink on paper. Small drawing of the Temple of Peace and Raja-Yoga Academy buildings at Lomaland when the artist was fifteen years old.
Edith White, Landscape, 1917. Oil on canvas. Painting of foxglove from Lomaland's International Garden.
Edith White, Landscape, 1917. Oil on canvas. Painting of foxglove inspired by Lomaland’s International Garden.
Edith Whilte, Roses on a Fence, c. 1915. Oil on canvas. Close-up photo of a beautiful painting created in Lomaland.
Edith Whilte, Roses on a Fence, c. 1915. Oil on canvas. Close-up photo of a beautiful painting created in Lomaland.
The Prodigal or The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. Painted in England before artist moved to Point Loma in 1900.
The Prodigal or The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You, Reginald Willoughby Machell, c. 1895. Oil on canvas. Painted in England before artist moved to Point Loma in 1900.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!